For Parents: Transition Information

Helping your daughter or son find the right college is an important and sometimes overwhelming task. For parents of a child with a disability, the undertaking can seem even more daunting. Hopefully, this information will provide you with some guidelines as you navigate through this process together.

If your child is like most teenagers, he or she isn’t considering the myriad of ways a disability might hinder academic success in college. As a parent, you likely worked closely with the IEP team, playing an active role in managing academic accommodations and adjustments in K through 12. As you move forward with the transition to college, it is important to consider the specific accommodations your child used regularly. Talk with your school’s special education coordinator and your child to learn about particular modifications and instructional supports and how they contributed to academic success. Did your son or daughter take tests with additional time? Did someone help plan and organize homework assignments? Were supplemental materials or study guides given above and beyond those given to other students in preparation for tests? Was she or he permitted to re-write papers or re-take tests if initial scores were below a certain level? To what degree did you, as a parent, coach or facilitate after school to ensure homework assignments were completed accurately and in a timely fashion? You’ll be in a better position to guide your son or daughter once you have a clear understanding of the factors that contributed to academic success in high school.

There is a fundamental distinction between the laws governing students with disabilities in K through 12, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the laws governing students with disabilities in college, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act of 2008 (ADAA). Perhaps the most important difference is that IDEA strives for academic success while ADAA strives for equal access to all courses, programs, services, and activities. Many of the modifications and instructional supports mandated under IDEA are not considered to be reasonable under ADA. It is essential for you and your son or daughter to understand that most colleges do not provide the modifications and supports offered in high school. While the goal of academic adjustments in high school is academic success, the goal of academic adjustments in higher education is equal access to all courses, programs, services, and activities. It is important to carefully weigh the influence of supports and modifications on high school success, and the realistic probability of similar success in higher education without these supports.

Parents can help by beginning the transition early. As you visit colleges, schedule an informational meeting with the Office of Disability Services to discuss appropriate accommodations. Make sure your son or daughter understands the active role he or she will assume in the accommodations process. It will be the students’ responsibility to contact Disability Services and provide documentation supporting their request for academic accommodations and adjustments (see documentation link). Additionally, students must take the initiative to consistently use the accommodations for which they are eligible.

Help your daughter or son learn to manage time effectively, develop good study strategies, become independent with regard to managing prescribed medications, and understand the importance of adequate sleep, diet, and exercise. Encourage your child to ask for help when needed and take advantage of all of the services offered. Like many other colleges, Elizabethtown offers peer tutoring in individual courses as well as in writing, and workshops in a number of areas such as study skills and time management. The Office of Disability Services may suggest students with disabilities take advantage of these opportunities, but it is up to the student to schedule appointments and participate in offered programs and services. Compare information from numerous colleges and carefully consider which institutions seem like a good fit.  You may find this link helpful from Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

Best wishes as you navigate through this process together.